MBTA bus maintenance spending highest in the nation, report says

BOSTON — A new study ranks the MBTA at the top of the lists for bus maintenance costs of the largest public transit systems in the United States.

The information is self-reported by the T and agencies across the country and compiled by the Pioneer Institute.

The report comes as a vote is being prepared to determine whether the MBTA should outsource bus maintenance or keep the work being done by its own employees.

“They’re underwater and we’re bailing them out at the price of about a billion dollars a year right now,” Gregory Sullivan, research director for the Pioneer Institute and former State Inspector General, said.

How the MBTA compares to similar agencies

Of the 25 largest us public transit agencies, The T ranks highest for maintenance costs, 71.2 percent higher than the average for cost of labor, and second highest for the number of labor hours per hour of total bus operations.

Compared to the average of five agencies most similar to the T across the United Sates, maintenance in 2015 was 70.6 percent higher.

“The main reason that the MBTA costs about 70 percent more than other transit agencies is there are 70 percent more people there and 70 percent more hours that they work,” Sullivan said.

Furthermore, the study finds that if costs were reduced to average spending across similar agencies, the MBTA would have saved $43.7 million per year.

The work is currently being done by union laborers, and there has been much protest over outsourcing the jobs to the private sector.

But Sullivan says the numbers speak for themselves, and the decision is a no brainer.

“No family would take their car to be repaired at a shop that has twice as many employees as the other shop, twice as much in salary and they charge you twice as much so you have an $800 job and they’re going to charge you $1,600. Nobody would go to that store but that’s what’s in effect here in Massachusetts,” he said.

How did the MBTA get here?

The Pacheco Law prevented the MBTA from seeking out private labor for the last 15 years.

After the winter of 2015 wreaked havoc on the MBTA, Gov. Charlie Baker took on the Pacheco Law in order to reform the embattled transit system.

Recently the state legislature granted the T the choice, and now they have to decide.

People around Boston say it seems sound.

“I think if we care about saving money we should go to the private sector”

Right now the MBTA is considering cutting weekend Commuter Rail service and paratransit services to make ends meet, but Sullivan said outsourcing the maintenance would repair the financial hole and make it possible to keep service levels as they exist now.

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